How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15, NIV)
Greetings to you all as we face 2018 together. It’s so good to be home. Jenny and I and the family have been so grateful for those of you who have held us in prayer over our sabbatical. With Jenny’s Dad passing away in October it has not always been an easy time away, but God’s faithfulness has been present throughout this period. Thank you to Bishop Ellie, Archdeacon Julie Rokotakala, and all those who have taken the mantle of leadership.
It has been striking for us that in going around the world – through the UK, Spain, Norway and India – that in every location are amazing miracles of God that most of us wouldn’t even know existed. In Spain we were encouraged when we were welcomed one night as pilgrims (not church leaders) to a Catholic parish house in the city with a warm meal and a wonderful prayer time and were asked to be sensitive to the fact that their 24/7 prayer room continued on as it had for many years.
In the UK we were moved by the courage of the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite a pile of young adults to move into Lambeth Palace and to wrestle against the traditions to see a vibrant new life of deep prayer rhythms, discipleship and gritty engagement in the city with the local shelters and refuges as well hosting a Muslim refugee family to join them in community life. We happened upon the Archbishop at midday Eucharist which he tries to pop into, joining with the young people in prayer when he can. We caught up with an old friend in Norway who has served for 30 years with YWAM and still just as passionate in his faith and commitment to mission.
We met old and new friends in India who were not only sustaining life in the poorest neighbourhoods of the world providing freedom businesses to offer employment, education and health care for kids and care for the dying; they were all shining with a deep joy and satisfaction. From the nuns at Mother Teresa’s to the young families and singles we stayed and volunteered with we were struck by the passion and gratitude of those we worked alongside.
The common theme was “why wouldn’t you want to live like this? Following Jesus is what we want to pour our lives into”. And it attracted people to them. We heard of people knocking on the door of houses asking for prayer, asking for help to follow Jesus. There were both miraculous healings, baptisms and Bible studies and there were jobs, clinics and classrooms full of kids learning to read. We loved that mix. And we loved that all around the world their are whole hearted passionate people living their every day life to see people loved into the kingdom.
Our God is truly a God who continues to work the miraculous, big and small, into our daily lives, whether we choose to see it or not. And behind each of these miracles, I realised that there are faithful people who responded to God’s call, and were sent to enable those miracles to come to pass.
The same is true for us. The miracles we experience may not be the mind-exploding, immediately-life-changing type (although brilliant if they are – let me know about them), but every decision we make for Jesus enables his miracles to take place, sometime, somewhere.
This year as a Diocese, in our Lenten Studies we are exploring the theme of what it means to be a Sent People. Can I encourage you to pick up a copy of this year’s study series (available from the Anglican Centre) and connect with others in your parish and/or family to work through the studies and encourage each other.
Can I ask you to hold in your prayers all the new communities and households that are being set up at this time – all those who we know of who have answered God’s call to be sent together. We pray in particular for the Anglican Youth Ministries houses in Thorndon, Kilbirnie, Porirua, the Hutt Valley, Palmerston North, and Whanganui; and for those entering community with Bishop Ellie and family in Kelburn. May these young people who have chosen God’s path know the everyday miracles of Christ-centred community. In this season too we have a number of new beginnings – thinking particularly of the new leadership beginning at Kelburn, Tawa and Rangitikei parishes. We are so grateful to all those clergy who continue to seek out where God is sending them.
Bishop Ellie and I will be spending some time in retreat together mid February, exploring what it means now that we are both back together to be sent leaders together. We are looking forward to sharing what this might look like with you in the next Bishops’ news.